Poland (Baltic Coast, Gdansk, Malbork & Kwidzyn Castles) August/September 2016
Who doesn’t want to say in a trip report that they’ve just been to Hel? And just for the sheer hell of it! Well that was literally what this trip was about, coupled with the fact that both Hel & Leba were apparently nice places.
Booked through Wizz Air
W6-1615 2035 Doncaster – Gdansk (45’ late departure)
W6-1616 1845 Gdansk – Doncaster (90’ late departure)
Gdynia – Mercure Gdynia Centrum – 10 minutes from Gdynia Glowna station, check-in was simple and straightforward as I’d checked in online. It was 0100 when we got into our 10th floor privilege room, which randomly didn’t include breakfast but did have an excellent view out to the harbor area that was currently occupied by a London Eye type big wheel; that was still operating at 0100! There were bath robes on the bed, toiletries, including toothbrush & toothpaste along with vanity kits, in the bathroom and we were even allowed some things complimentary from the mini-bar. There was a kettle and coffee maker too and the free WiFi in the room had an excellent signal. As we were there for six nights even I unpacked my bag and used some of the plentiful space to store my clothes. The room was spotless and spacious but lacked one thing on our arrival, a second towel; and missing things would be something we’d soon get used to at the hotel.
Interrail One Country Pass (Poland) 6 Days in 1 month £109 each
Booked online through the EU Rail website
Reservations for all the IC & TLK trains were made in Poland as required and are very simple to do; as easy as just writing the date, train, departure time, origin and destination on a piece of paper and handing it over!
Saturday 27th August 2016 (An evening jaunt from Doncaster to Gdynia)
It makes a change being 20 minutes from the airport I’m flying from as opposed to 10 minutes from Doncaster station and then at least 2 hours from the airport I’m flying from. Needless to say it was a refreshing change rocking up at the airport closest to me.
As most scheduled flights, all Wizz Air, depart in the evening security was busy. Made worse by the fact that someone looked to have collapsed right in the middle of the queuing system and it had to be re-routed around them while they were attended to. It took 35 minutes from showing our boarding cards to getting to the security area. Now if my flight had been about to imminently depart I’d have asked if I could be fast-tracked through security to make sure I made my flight, yet having watched people board the imminently departing Riga flight as we queued up the woman behind us as we got to security then piped up that she was pushed for time and had to be on the Riga flight. At which point she was pushed to the front of the queue, which we were at the front of by that point! After we’d got through security I watched the same woman casually walk up to the gate where the Riga flight had been departing from, the doors at which were closed and there was nobody about, only to be as casually turned away! She’d missed it, next one 24 hours later, hope she enjoyed her wait. She was last seen being escorted back out of security to the airport exit; which is what you get for leaving it until 30 minutes before your plane departs to go through security; oh, and for being fucking stupid!
We had plenty of time before our flight and Wizz Air gave us an extra 45 minutes to fester about; which was nice of them. Food from Wetherspoon’s wasn’t too bad, if not a little overpriced. The plane on the other hand was nothing short of like being in a children’s play area and was like travelling in cattle class. It was noisy, full of children and their ignorant parents and was just basically an endurance from getting on to getting off. I did manage a bit of sleep though, much to the amusement of the little girl over the aisle from me, who apparently kept laughing and pointing at me while I was asleep; maybe it was my bad hair day that got her attention or something eh?
Arriving into Gdansk wasn’t so bad but as we were in the middle of the plane we had to wait for everyone to get off before us. Thankfully immigration wasn’t too bad and even more thankfully there was a nice man at the airport exit with a sign that had our names on it. The taxi had been arranged direct with the Mercure Gdynia Centrum and they’d quoted 120 PLN but we were only asked for 100 PLN after the 20-minute journey from Gdansk to Gdynia. We would have taken the train from the airport, literally right outside the airport exit, but heavy rain in July had caused a big landslide and part of the railway had been flooded and washed away; it remained closed between the airport, Gdansk & Gdynia the whole time we were there.
I’d checked in online at the Mercure Gdynia Centrum and we were handed our room keys the moment we got to the front desk; it was as simple and straightforward as that. It was 0100 when we got into our 10th floor privilege room, which randomly didn’t include breakfast but did have an excellent view out to the harbor area that was currently occupied by a London Eye type big wheel; that was still operating at 0100! There were bath robes on the bed, toiletries, including toothbrush & toothpaste along with vanity kits, in the bathroom and we were even allowed some things complimentary from the mini-bar. There was a kettle and coffee maker too and the free WiFi in the room had an excellent signal. As we were there for six nights even I unpacked my bag and used some of the plentiful space to store my clothes. Our coats were hung on the hooks and that was where they stayed for the entirety of the holiday! The room was spotless and spacious but lacked one thing on our arrival, a second towel; and missing things would be something we’d soon get used to at the hotel.
Normally I’d have had something to say about the noise coming from outside at 0100 in the morning, especially as we were 10 floors up, but by the time we got to bed it was almost 2am and most of it had died down, however it had sounded like there was a party down below somewhere; which we later figured out the noise could well have been coming from the music theatre on the opposite side of the hotel.
Sunday 28th August 2016 (A journey to Hel…..)
Due to our late arrival into Gdynia there was no plan to get up early so the plan for the day was to take a leisurely ride to Hel. This involved a 1025 departure from Gdynia Glowna. The Mercure was about a 15-minute steady walk from the station and we found ourselves looking to the station to provide us something for breakfast as everything en-route to the station had been closed; possibly as it was a Sunday morning? OF course McDonalds never fails and is one of the few non-British McDonalds I’ve come across in the world that actually does proper McD’s breakfasts so that was a bonus too, although there didn’t seem to be any hash browns so fries it was; not that we got a choice!
Gdynia Glowna is a pretty simple station, with 6 platforms for mainline trains and then separate island platforms, accessed via another entrance, for the local stopping trains provided by SKM. The only issue I found with it is that there are no master departure screens on the platforms and you have to go downstairs to the booking office area to check all the arrivals and departures if you need to.
We’d finished breakfast by the time our train arrived with a load 5 set of fresh-air double deck stock forming R90509 0722 Chojnice – Hel. There were a lot of people about on the platform so we hung around towards the end of the canopy area to get near the front when the train stopped. Our quick dash ensured we had seats and initially, as I didn’t realise, I managed to have us in seats without an opening window by them but this was soon rectified and the old fashioned car window handle was soon wound around a few hundred times to make the window go down at about a millimeter per 50 turns. It was painful but I got there in the end and had muscles like Popeye by the time I’d finished. Despite it being a hot day not all the windows were utilized to their full potential, which is understandable as some people could well have died before they’d managed to get them fully open, however I used mine for alternative reasons.
From Wladyslawowo the railway takes a sharp right and heads east down the Hel peninsula and for the majority of the way the sea is no more than 200m either side of the railway and a journey that is 25km direct by ferry from Gdynia to Hel is actually 76km by train. People were getting off at all stations down the peninsula and it seemed like everyone was heading to the northern beaches and not the southern ones, it’s unfortunate that the northern side of the railway is flanked by trees for almost the entire journey so there’s nothing much to see on that side of the train at all; so sit on the right hand side on the way to Hel if you want to see the sea.
At Jurata, the last station before Hel and 10km from it, we got off to wait the 23 minutes for EIC5553 1103 Gdynia Glowna – Hel; which is a portion off EIC1851 0706 Warszawa Zachodnia – Kolobrzeg. During our short wait in the nice late morning sunshine and heat the local “wholly trolley” pulled up outside the station to ferry folk around the place; this is Danielle’s non politically correct name for a road train, which she is obsessed with and takes more photos of them on our trips than I do of normal trains!
On the short run into Hel, on an empty EIC5553, we attempted to spot the miniature railway within the Museum of Coastal Defense confines but we couldn’t see anything for the trees so didn’t even entertain busting a gut to walk down there in the just over 2 hours we had after arrival.
My valued ME Maps app guided us from the station to the seafront in no time. It was a scorching hot Sunday and the beach was full of locals making the most of it; as technically the Polish Summer season finished that weekend with the Summer precession of trains continuing until Wednesday 31/08, at which point Hel would see its last loco-hauled departures of the season and would sink back into anonymity for another 10 months until the next one arrived the following June. Unlike the good old British seaside there was no background music from amusement arcades and there were no donkeys roaming up and down the narrow beaches. The sea was calm and clear, the beaches were tidy and well maintained, there were sitting areas set back from the beach for those that liked a little shade and didn’t want to melt or fry in the 30-degree heat; and what’s more is there were no seagulls to swoop down and nick your chips; oh, and there were no chippies! There was the odd candy floss man along the promenade and the odd person grilling fresh meat but other than that there was nothing really seasidy food wise. Hel’s whole demeanor was calm and relaxed and there were no piss-heads about anywhere, it was just good old family fun.
Other than the beach though, unless you have the whole day there and want to walk a lot, there isn’t much to do in Hel but relax. There are plenty of battery powered taxi type things buzzing around, ferrying people to where they want to go, these are nothing more than glorified golf buggies mind but they do help to keep the peace and aid the general air of karma that Hel oozes. As we didn’t have a lot of time we chose to have a look in the Fokarium (Seal Sanctuary) which is situated yards from the main beach area and just along from the harbour. It costs 5 PLN per person to access the sanctuary, which is done so through turnstile gates after putting your 5 PLN coin into a slot. Change machines for the coins are situated by the side of the gates so it’s not an issue if you only have notes.
There are only 5 seals at the sanctuary currently and there’s plenty of information knocking about the place to explain what it’s all about; which is excellent if you understand Polish! Feeding times for the seals attract more people but as we’d missed one at 1230 and the next wasn’t while 1400 we didn’t have enough time to wait for feeding time to come around again. The seals look happy enough in the captivity and are almost constantly on the move, swimming up and down the place and even hopping over the odd gate to get from one pool to another. Still, they’re enclosed in what looked like dirty water and it must get a bit boring for them, even if they do have a bit of company for each other?
Having seen the sights of Hel we picked up some goodies from a bakery on the way back to the station and were there in time to watch the inwards working arrive. The loco was detached once the hoards had finished walking over the level crossing in front of it and then run around to work back with R55074 1441 Hel – Chojnice. It was on a smaller rake than earlier but it still had opening windows in the double deck stock and the train was almost empty on departure due to there being a 1425 Hel – Gdynia DMU right in front of it.
By Kuznica a few people were on board and while we waited to depart there was a bit of a commotion further up the coach from us which involved a woman shouting at something or someone and then running down to the lower deck shortly afterwards. Next thing we know there’s a dog running up and down the platform, followed by the woman and her daughter, both trying to catch it. It was comical and looked just like a Benny Hill sketch as they ran by the window a few times! Eventually the dog was harnessed and brought back on board, where it was tied to the seat frame. It looked knackered bless it but its owners looked even more knackered so it was having the last laugh. Had we not been waiting for a DMU to come off the single line though it could have been interesting for the dog, or its owners, or both of course!
That was it for the afternoon and we strolled back to the hotel and then headed out for a proper meal at the La Fortuna Italian restaurant, which is a stone’s throw from the Mercure we were staying at. It wasn’t busy as it was early and the pizza’s served were very nice and quite cheap as well.
I needed a ticket and berth reservation for train 67 1455 Kiev – Warszawa from Luts’k to Warszawa on 7th October, and headed to the station that night to try and get it, but try as the woman behind the counter might, she just couldn’t get the machine to issue the ticket and after 25 minutes I’d all but given up until she actually managed to issue one from Kiev, not Luts’k. Astounded and annoyed at the same time I took it on and paid for it. As I walked back to the hotel though my conscience got the better of me and I began to worry about my berth being given away, by the time the train got to Luts’k at almost midnight, and decided to get the ticket refunded the following morning and go with my original plan of getting the tickets via PolRail Service, who had already quoted me a price for them anyway, who just so happened to be based in Bydgoszcz; which was where we’d be heading the following day anyway. My maps showed the PolRail office to be a 10-minute walk from Bydgoszcz Glowna station so I was hoping to save on the 30 PLN international shipping costs and get them direct from the office while I was there. Meanwhile, back at the hotel I was annoyed at the fact I’d managed to get bitten by a mosquito while I’d been at the ticket office and was even more annoyed that I didn’t have a bit stick with me so Germoline had to suffice.
Photos from 28th August 2016
Monday 29th August 2016 (A run out to Bydgoszcz)
It was an earlier start on this morning and rather than go for the McD’s option at Gdynia Glowna again we opted to get some bits from a bakery over the road from the station instead; mainly as there were a few places and everything was open on this pleasant Monday morning.
We got our reservations for TLK5602 0756 Gdynia Glowna – Wroclaw the day before, as far as Bydgoszcz Glowna and our seats were in what turned out to be a rather cozy 8 seat compo in the front coach. While looking at the screens to find which platform we’d be departing from one thing stood out, the fact that TLK45251 2214 (P) Katowice – Hel was showing 260’ late arriving and the subsequent portion of TLK50161 0733 Gdynia – Leba was showing 250’ late as a result. We were planning on doing the Leba trains the following day so hoped this was a one-off and wasn’t to be repeated the following day. As we arrived into Bydgoszcz Glowna TLK45251 was sat in with EP07-1047 dead on the train and EP07-1050 just dropping onto the top of it. The train departed Bydgoszcz just 323’ late and I can only assume overnight storms at the other end of the country had something to do with its late running?
We didn’t have a great deal of time at Bydgoszcz so used it to get more reservations for the weeks planned moves and waited for our train to arrive to Pila. TLK18103 0618 Warszawa Wschodnia – Gorow Wielkopolski arrived and took us through to Pila, where the loco was detached to allow SU160-008 to work the portion through to Gorow Wielkopolski. After TLK18103 departed EP07-1039 dropped back onto the coaches it had left in the platform to form TLK80103 1156 Pila – Kolobrzeg.
It was a nice morning to just stand around, not as hot as the previous day but warm enough. Soon enough though TLK85152 0936 Szczecin – Bydgoszcz rocked up, right time. It was load two and not too wedged; there were empty seats in the compo we were reserved in. At Bydgoszcz Glowna the two coaches ex TLK85152 are shunted immediately to the rear of TLK53106 1358 Bydgoszcz – Przemysl.
By the time the shunt onto TLK53106 had taken place EP07-376 was already arriving with the opposing working of TLK35106 0312 Przemysl – Bydgoszcz and the loco off TLK85152 was soon attached to the two coaches at the front to work TLK58153 1414 Bydgoszcz – Szczecin. At this point I left Danielle at the station and took a fast walk to the PolRail office to attempt to get my required ticket from Luts’k in Ukraine to Warszawa in October. It was a 10-minute fast walk, which left me about 15 minutes at the offices before I needed to be heading back to the station. Access is via a buzzer and once inside I was guided upstairs to where there were many different offices, all with people beavering away in them. I definitely got the impression that everyone was busy and almost too busy to see me straight away. Fortunately, I was taken into an office and my query dealt with almost immediately; unfortunately, I was soon told that my tickets and reservations couldn’t be made as the advance booking period was 30 days and they wouldn’t become available until early September! That probably explained the issues surrounding the repeated attempts to issue the tickets the previous night and I ultimately ended up getting the tickets online through PolRail Service after I’d got home. As Luts’k isn’t one of the mainstream stations on the route they had to do me a custom quote and sent me this in the form of an e-mail link. I clicked the link and followed the booking through to payment, after creating myself a PolRail Service online account to do so. Tickets were dispatched 3 days later and at my door 2 days after that and an e-mail chain kept me up to date from order to delivery. It was very efficient.
Our conveyance back to Gdynia was IC6507 1021 Wroclaw – Gdynia and it was far more comfortable in the open coaches of an IC train than the compos of a TLK.
Food was at the Pueblo Mexican restaurant, which was hit and miss for us both really. While I enjoyed mine the fajitas came with melted cheese on the top which doesn’t suit all. Unfortunately for the whole restaurant it had a problem with flies buzzing round the place that were a bit of a nuisance and put us of returning again completely.
Tuesday 30th August 2016 (A journey to Łeba……)
Having figured out that Subway did decent croissants at Gdynia station, it provided breakfast every morning for the rest of the trip. Our train to Leba was TLK50161 0733 Gdynia – Leba, which is a portion off TLK45251 2212 (P) Katowice – Hel. We had reservations for it as well and all the reservations seemed to be in the rear coach of the load 4 set so we sat in the front coach instead; which was empty all the way to Leba.
TLK50161 has 40-odd minutes standing time at Lebork and the loco was shut down during this time, while the crew went for refreshments. I assumed the standing time was due to capacity issues on the branch as its single line all the way to Leba? While we waited TLK55204 0811 Łeba – Lebork arrived.
The Leba line itself is like travelling down one of those lines that time forgot. Not only is it a bit sparse on the vegetation side in places, it’s very spare on the populated front and if it wasn’t for what lay at the end of the branch I’m pretty sure that people using the intermediate stations would have no service at all. The line was also a little hilly in places, which was embarrassing for our SM42 up front, which basically made a meal of anything even resembling a hill and was just as pathetic as the rest of the diesels we’d had thus far in the country.
It started to hammer it down shortly afterward arrival into Leba and we found ourselves sheltering in a nearby bus stop, over the road from the station, yet still getting wet as the rain was coming down that hard and a little sideways thanks to the breeze.
We thought it was going to be one of those wet days at the seaside but one the rain stopped it never started again while we were in Leba! So off we set to find the beach. While people go to Hel & Leba for pretty much the same reasons both places are very different. The walk to Leba’s beach area was a lot further from its station than it is in Hel and through streets lined with tat selling shops and there are amusement arcades everywhere; with masses of air-hockey tables and plenty of little rides for the kiddies. We definitely got the impression that it was the end of season though as many places were closed but despite the brisk breeze and poorer than average weather people were still out to enjoy their day; and the ice-cream sellers still seemed to be doing a good trade.
By the time we got to the entrance to the beach we’d seen no less than three wholly trolleys doing the rounds. The beach at Leba is a sprawling one as opposed to one about 20ft deep like at Hel. Needless to say there weren’t any sun seekers due to the breeze and cooler temperatures. There was still and interesting skyline though with the clouds on the horizon make for an atmospheric look across it. We didn’t hang around long and figured there was another access point to the beach a bit further east and we ended up walking through the Hotel Neptun grounds to get to it. It was warmer by the time we got there and the sun was doing its best to stay out in between the fast moving clouds. The wind made the beach a bit hard to bare anyway and the sand it was blowing about just made it a non-entity for us, especially with the camera and after taking a few “been there, done that snaps” we headed back inland to find somewhere to eat.
As there were a lot of places to choose from we didn’t know where to settle for but in the end managed to make a good choice when we sat down outside at the Galeria Smakow. It looked like a bit of a café type place but investigation revealed a massive kitchen at the rear of the place and seating area inside. Menus were all in Polish but Google Translate helped us figure out what we wanted and pizzas were duly ordered. The woman serving us spoke a little English but when she handed us a number to put on our table I got the impression that the numbers would be called out and food was collected from the restaurant area; so I spent the next few minutes getting Google Translate to say the Polish for the number 28 to me! Laugh as you might, when our number was called I recognized what was being said and duly went to collect our massive pizzas from the restaurant. I was well impressed with mine and even more so when it came with proper fresh mushrooms on it instead of the tinned crap that usually gets used in Europe; we’d definitely chosen well and were stuffed when we left.
Having walked around town a bit to pass the time we were waiting at the station when TLK15157 0646 Warszawa Zachodnia – Leba arrived. The train was fuller than the one we’d done out that morning, although we did still have a compo to ourselves all the way to Gdynia.
Food that evening was at an Italian restaurant called the Da Vinci, which was completely empty but for one other person. The service was good and the menu in English but it wasn’t a very comprehensive one and there were no pizzas served at all. The food made up for it though, it was excellent.
Back at the hotel that night we found that there had been no towels left in our room at all………
Photos from 30th August 2016
Wednesday 31st August 2016 (A return to Hel……)
Having been out that morning I met Danielle for R90509 0722 Chojnice – Hel and another afternoon in Hel soon followed; I was ready for a rest after the morning of running around! Of course we had to get off for EIC5553 1103 Gdynia – Hel en-route and we did so this time at Kuznica to admire the windsurfing while we waited. When we boarded EIC5553 though the guard swooped on us before we’d even got onto the train and was keen to see our tickets before we got on. This of course produced an exchange of words as it hadn’t been the first time this had happened during our time there and it wouldn’t be the last. Once the Interrail tickets were produced though all was well and we were allowed to sit down and were even given a free bottle of water; which is standard on PKP EIC trains anyway.
It turned out to be a decent day but thankfully not as hot as it had been on our last visit to Hel; there were still plenty on the beach though. We did a second visit to the seal sanctuary, this time to see what happened at feeding time. It was very underwhelming with nothing much to see other than the fitter of the seals being made to roll over and clap before its food was thrown into the water for it to go and fetch. I don’t quite know what I was expecting but it was definitely more than we saw, which was far from entertaining or remotely rewarding; my advice is don’t go a feeding time and you’ll see more of the seals swimming about and there will be loads more room to roam about as the place was packed during the feeding.
We did manage to make it to Hel harbour this time, which was full of jellyfish! It’s only a small harbor but people were still on their megaphones shouting out boat departures, which of course I couldn’t understand but there must be a bit of competition? From where we stood it was only about 25km back to Gdynia by boat. After visiting the bakery for some afternoon snacks our train journey back would be 76km back to Gdynia.
As it really was the end of the season the train journey back from Hel was quite relaxing and pretty empty. The spotters from Gdynia earlier were all on board as was the guy who’d sheeped our move to Leba the previous day. Our ambled down the branch with the last R55074 1441 Hel – Chojnice of the season; and you could tell in some ways that Summer was coming to an end in Poland….
Our evening was to be spent in Gdansk and we went through on R55074, the plan being to do food at the Hard Rock Café there. The walk from the station to the Hard Rock Café was very pleasant and Gdansk unfolded the closer we got; it really is a fascinating place with a seemingly endless façade of old buildings, all trying to stand out from the next above the housing line. As the Hard Rock Café is at the bottom end of the main pedestrianized street in Gdansk, Dlugi, it was a nice walk to it and we were very ready for food when we got there. Service was good, the surroundings nice to relax in and of course the food was as plentiful and tasty as you’d expect from a Hard Rock Café; we paid for it though as Hard Rock Café’s aren’t cheap anywhere in the world, but it was worth it!
Photos from 31st August 2016
Thursday 1st September 2016 (Malbork Castle)
Our conveyance to Malbork was TLK81100 0723 Kolobrzeg – Warszawa Zachodnia and our reservations were in the front compo of the front coach. Upon arrival into Malbork the castle can be seen from the railway and it looked impressive from there. When we’d walked through the pleasant town, which took about 15 minutes, and had got a little closer its impressiveness stood out a lot more the closer we got. Outside the main entrance there is actually a photo of the whole castle after the war and to look at is while we stood there it was pretty impressive how it had been restored as the picture had it in ruins with roof sections missing from bombing and shell holes riddled the bits that were still standing!
Tickets for entry to the castle are purchased in the buildings situated near the entrance. Ticket prices include headsets and audio-guide, unfortunately, if you don’t want the audio-guide there is no discount. I’d like to say maps are available at the reception desk but the maps are about as detailed as something that isn’t detailed at all and are utterly useless once inside the complex! I found my ME Maps app to be more useful, if only to pinpoint where we actually were inside the castle’s complex. Once tickets are checked at the main entry point to the castle you’re free to roam wherever you want but directions within the castle are shocking and in some cases non-existent. All the guide books do say that you should probably expect to get lost inside the castle at some point, which is more like a fact but with better signage this can be avoided. I can’t speak for the audio-guide and its directions but if you don’t use the audio-guide and just want to roam around aimlessly to take photos like we did, you’ll spend most of your time watching audio-zombies wondering in and out of your viewfinder, completely oblivious to anyone or anything around them as they’re that immersed with what’s entering their ears that their eyes seemingly don’t work and their courtesy is left outside the castle walls!
We had about 3 hours at Malbork, which was enough time to get to the castle, walk around inside it, get lost and try to figure out actually how the hell we got back to the main town once we’d left the castle but the signposted exit! Photos of the whole site are best from the front in the early afternoon and on the opposite side of the river in the later afternoon when the sun is right for the respective photos.
There are plenty of places to eat in Malbork and we used a place called Basilia, on the main road back to the station, where at least one of the staff spoke fluent English as well as Spanish and bits of other languages as well! They had English menus as well but as time was pressing us a bit we only had a good English staple of chips and ketchup to tide us over until we got to Gdansk later.
TLK58102 1320 Olsztyn – Szczecin whisked us back to Gdansk, where we pretty much repeated our steps through the city but went right down to the waterfront and had a pleasant walk along it. There was a big London-eye type sightseeing wheel down by the waterfront and we couldn’t help but think it could have been the one that had been on the front at Gdynia when we’d arrived, which had been dismantled over the past 3 days and completely disappeared? The atmosphere in Gdansk is very relaxing and the many places to sit and eat/drink at give it that appeal I guess. After our hefty meal at the Hard Rock Café the previous evening we walked straight by it on this occasion and sat outside at Sempere, an Italian restaurant at the top end of Dlugi, and watch the world go by while we ate our pizzas.
We had another occasion where we were challenged about tickets on the way back before we got onto the train, this time while boarding EIC3522 1414 Krakow Głowny – Gdynia Głowna at Gdansk Oliwa. A bit pissed off with the fact that this kept occurring and it was just like being victimized the guard got more than he bargained for when we both gave him both barrels as we’d had enough of it. He was ok with our tickets, not that he shouldn’t have been mind, once they were produced but it was becoming an annoyance that we couldn’t get on a train, with fully valid tickets, and at least sit down before being asked for them as opposed to being challenged on a platform.
Back at the hotel we found there to be no bottle opener in the room for our free mini-bar fruit juices……….
Photos from 1st September 2016
Friday 2nd September 2016 (Torun & Kwidzyn Castle)
We had to open our morning drinks with a spoon as there hadn’t been a bottle opened left the previous day; or should I have said our bottle opener had been stolen?! After picking up the usual breakfast of croissants at Gdynia station’s Subway we were soon headed towards Torun, via a change of trains at Bydgoszcz. We had reservations in the front coach again and our compartment for 8 was full on departure from Gdansk, which was where the fun began.
It was warm morning and the sun was making the compo quite warm. The compo window had been open initially but one of the occupants shut it after departure from Gdynia so we opened the corridor window instead as it was getting a bit warm. Some bert then got on at Gdansk and decided he wanted it shut and attempted to shut it before Danielle reopened it. When he was invited to sit in the seats with direct sunshine on them he declined and the issue went away. That was until the guard came around for tickets and he told her he wanted the window shut. She was half way in shutting it before we intervened and a bit of a riot ensued; which ultimately involved bert getting told in no uncertain terms and him moving compos! Needless to say the rest of the journey to Bydgoszcz was fine.
Our train to Torun was TLK81108 0625 Szczecin – Warszawa Wschodnia, from where it is about a 1.5 mile walk to the old town that’s directly across the river from Głowny station. We had 2 hours to walk to town, do our bit and make it to Torun Miasto station to head on to Kwidzyn later in the afternoon. The walk to town took about 25 minutes at a fast pace and I’d recommend walking if only to be inspired by the Torun skyline when you walk onto the bridge that takes you over the river. It’s a cracking sight to see such an old looking town and get a good panoramic view of it; once inside the town limits though that effect is lost.
Torun isn’t a very big town and was quite quiet on our visit, despite quite a few tour groups being led around town. Its famous for gingerbread and at the museum you can pay to have a course in how to make it and then keep what you make; unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do this and will probably have a return trip sometime to make a more leisurely day of Torun. The way we did it though we ended up at the ruined castle end of town last and paid our 9PLN to have a walk around the ruins; which were made so by the town’s residents in protest nearly 600 years ago in 1452!
Our 2 hours in Tourn hadn’t really been enough and it was somewhere we’d like to return to. After finding some snacks from a bakery for our trip to Kwidzyn we ended up going from Torun Miasto into Głowny to pass the time on the same DMU that we went back out to Kwidzyn on. We had no issues heading into town but when we got gripped heading out to Kwidzyn on the 1330 Torun Głowny – Brodnica the guard told us our Interrail tickets weren’t valid. When I challenged this she went back to her colleague, questioned it and returned with our tickets, handed them back and apologized. Having checked the validity of Polish Interrail tickets I think we got away with that one as they aren’t valid on Arriva operated trains!
Our Arriva train was 3’ late into Grudziadz on a plus 6’. There were no less than 5 DMUs in the station at the time and we had 3 minutes to locate our forward train to Kwidzyn, with no announcements and no electronic screens to even tell us which platform it went from! Luckily I’d figured out from ME Maps which direction the train would depart and discounted everything with white lights facing the other way, which left the DMU furthest away and on the furthest platform from us as well. Even that didn’t have the train gen displayed on the electronic boards inside so I had to confirm with the guard that it was indeed the 1445 Grudziadz – Malbork before we ended up on the wrong train.
The journey to Kwidzyn took 40 minutes and the run to the first shack was at a very slow pace; the track condition was shocking. From there it was ok though and as the line is used by freight from Kwidzyn paper mill it was maintained a lot better.
It took us 15 minutes to walk through Kwidzyn town to the castle and what a building it is. Part of the whole building is actually a church and it closes at 1600, which is about when we reached it. Luckily though the sun was still out and we’d picked the afternoon to visit when the sun was perfect at the rear of the castle for our photos. It was nothing like Malbork castle but equally as impressive from the outside and I was glad we’d taken the time to stop off on our way back to Gdynia.
Our 1731 Kwidzyn – Malbork DMU for formed of the same unit and train crew as the one we’d got off there earlier. As it was a PR run train there was no issue with our Interrail tickets and we were soon at Malbork having a bite to eat at the Basilia restaurant while we waited for our train back towards Gdynia.
We reflected on the day and the whole trip while we ate at the La Fortuna in Gdynia, near the Mercure we were staying at. It had been a good few days and the weather had treated us nicely as well, with only one day of rain at Leba, that we’d successfully managed to avoid.
Back at the hotel it seemed we’d outstayed our welcome as everything in the mini-bar that had previously had a “complimentary” tag on it hadn’t; but we did have a bottle opener to open them with though!
Photos from 2nd September 2016
Saturday 3rd September 2016 (Homeward bound)
As our Interrail tickets ran out the previous day we had no plans at all and just got up when we were ready, without an alarm call. We took our time to pack our bags and didn’t check out until just before the 1200 deadline.
As we had all day to get to the airport for our 1845 flight home we did lunch at the Da Vinci restaurant in Gdynia before buying tickets on SKM for 6PLN each and catching an SKM train to Gdansk Wrezszcz; from where replacement buses were being operated by SKM while the line remained closed to the airport after the washout in July. Tickets Were checked on the bus before its departure and all times were listed on the SKM website. The journey took about 20 minutes; depositing us outside the airport entrance with nearly 4 hours to kill before our flight home. This was increased the moment we walked through the airport doors and found our Wizz Air flight to be showing 45’ late on the departure screen!
After our wait at Gdansk airport we were so glad to be boarding our flight and heading home; 90′ late in the end. The day had been a bit wasteful really and we weren’t home until 2130 that night. Still, it had been a good trip and with every trip to Poland I found myself wanting to return, not only to pastures new but to places we’d been with a little more time on our hands the next time.